Five millennials grapple with why one of their cohorts murdered a senior partner at their law firm.
You have to love millennials. Otherwise, Branfman’s (The Rather Large Book of Puns, 2015, etc.) debut novel will likely seem a slog in the company of entitled spoiled brats—or, in the words of one, “whining, crazy idiots”—who may push back against this stereotypical portrayal of their generation, but do nothing to dispel it. When the characters aren’t complaining about their lives (“The American Dream has been dead for a long time”), they are posting their general and job grievances on an online message board (“My life was ruined by idiots who said they ‘just want what’s best for me’ ”). The catalyst for this existential angst is the seemingly unprovoked murder three years earlier committed by Richard Mallard. His friend James Harrison, who turned him in to the police, is haunted by Mallard’s rationalization: “I actually did the right thing.” Over the course of a long night’s journey into day, Harrison and four other associates, working overtime at their lower Manhattan law firm, bat around their disappointments leading to the book’s centerpiece, Harrison’s unlikely 3 a.m. jailhouse visit to Mallard to learn why he committed the murder. (It shouldn’t have been too surprising. At a poker game and bitch session prior to the homicide, Mallard proposed about their bosses, “Why not just kill them all?”) Their Socratic dialogue unearths some genuinely surprising character revelations and a couple of nifty twists that set up an unnerving climax that makes the end of the movie Fight Club seem optimistic in comparison. As with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, alternating chapters progress the story through the perspective of each of the characters. Individually, they are a mixed bag. The most fragile is Barbara Cunningham (“the hysterical…appearance-obsessed, alcoholic idiot who can’t go a week without crying”). And while the characterizations are shallow and the dialogue often stilted, Branfman taps into that disaffected segment of millennials who are asking, as have generations before them, the eternal question: “What’s it all about?”
An amoral whydunit that delivers the worst nightmare of Gen Xers and baby boomers.